Thursday, February 02, 2012

From the Mail Bag...

Friends, I thought I would share a response to a recent post I made. The post was from "Scarlett"; she wrote:

I think it's interesting that you call yourself a historian yet you refer to the American Civil War as the War for Southern Independence. At least you didn't opt for the classic, yet equally subjective, "War of Northern Aggression." Kudos.

Historians don't deny that African Americans "served" (and I'm using that term loosely) in the Confederate Army as physical laborers, cooks, or even soldiers. However, they do recognize that African Americans were were often threatened or coerced into serving in these roles. Historian Bruce Levine claims that “many of those who today make the Black-Confederate cause their own do so as part of a larger effort to vindicate the Confederacy and to honor their own southern ancestors…The claim of a massive black presence in southern armies is meant to accomplish something else as well: to demonstrate once and for all that the Confederacy did not stand and did not fight for slavery.” Could this be what you're doing, Mr. Hardy?

Try again to convince me that a people who were enslaved - who were the PROPERTY of another living person - fought in DROVES for a government that, at that time, didn't even consider them human. Did an African American ever willingly fight for the Confederacy - probably (it would be foolish to say no). But it is equally foolish to say they were a common occurrence.

First, thanks for the post, Scarlett. If you had read a little more deeply on this blog, you would discover that I have never believed (much less written) that there were “droves”—a dehumanizing, livestock-oriented, term in itself, mind you—of blacks (slave and free) who took up arms and marched under the Southern banner during the war.  That being said, after 29 years or research and reading,  I cannot deny that there were some, a few, who did so. My title for the blog post was aimed at those who ignore these documented individuals and steadfastly believe that there were absolutely none (and yes, there are “historians” who actually do believe this). To completely deny that there were a few blacks (slave and free) who voluntarily took up arms and fought is simply ignoring historical facts and denying these people their individuality and complexity as human beings.

You obviously have some predetermined agenda to suggest that I might deny that the war was fought over slavery... once again you have failed to read at any great depth into my many books and articles. Certainly, the institution of slavery played a great part in the discussion. The South was concerned that if Congress could limit or abolish slavery, then other rights and laws guaranteed by the Constitution would fall victim to the radical, or better termed liberal, politicians.  The North, under the battle cry of "the Union must be preserved" also fought to preserve the institution of slavery. How else could the burgeoning industrial revolution in the Northern States survive without the slave-picked Southern cotton? (Of course, it did survive, largely due a new exploitable workforce of freedmen and immigrants, but the Northern industrialists did not know that in 1861.) So, in 1861, North and South both went to war to preserve the institution of slavery.

It would appear that you aim to classify me as a neo-Confederate. Alas, others have tried launching those slings and arrows, falling victim to the temptation to thus stereotype any historian who does not unconditionally vilify the Confederacy and praise the Union. It is simply my intent to be fair and honest, unbiased in my quest to truly understand and to help others understand one of the defining points of American History. I'm sure that there are many who would agree with my intent.

Lastly - if you would conduct a little thoughtful research into the time period, specifically into what Southerners wrote in the 1860s (and not merely the writings of modern academics), you might understand the reference to "War for Southern Independence." That is how Southerners in 1861 defined the conflict they were fighting. The Southern States desired an independent nation, and, like their fathers and grandfathers, resorted to a revolution, albeit a failed one, to obtain a nation based upon the ideals of the founding fathers. 

1 comment:

Scarlett said...

Do I need to remind you that you are not a 19th century Southerner? For a man in the 21st century to refer to the Civil War as a the War for Southern Independence would suggest he is a Confederate sympathizer. (Which would be ok if he weren't trying to publish a blog under the guise of an objective historian.) You're right - I've never read any of your books (maybe I should?). I have to say that I find your belief that slavery was a cause of the Civil War comforting - I was beginning to think The History Press wasn't peer reviewed. Hope you enjoyed this little back-and-forth; It's always reassuring knowing SOMEONE is reading your work. Just a tip: you should associate comments with their respective blogs so your audience can make connections and follow along (perhaps you could have included a link to your previous post). Also, if you choose to single out those who do make comments, your audience may feel less inclined to respond (and that's not what you want). Lastly, I'd like to applaud you for posting frequently and quickly point out that the title of your book is written as "North Carolina in the Civil Warm" on your Feb. 1 post. Since "comment moderation" is enabled, I'm going to ask that you not post this response. Cheers to having the freedom to disagree about the Civil War 150 years later! Best of luck on your upcoming road trip.